Policy Insights

What have we learned from randomized evaluations that policymakers, practitioners, and funders can use to improve social programs? J-PAL’s Policy Insights, organized by sector, highlight lessons emerging across multiple studies and the mechanisms that help explain the results.

J-PAL’s Sector Chairs and staff draw these insights from relevant randomized evaluations, updating and adding insights as the body of evidence grows. Each Policy Insight briefly summarizes their perspective on the evidence on a specific topic, with links to the original research and policy summaries. Read this blog post for more information about how we develop Policy Insights.

When combined with a detailed understanding of context and program implementation, we hope these insights can be practical inputs for policy and program design. For examples of how insights from randomized evaluations have informed policy, visit our Evidence to Policy page.

Teacher helping student

Reducing community college dropout through comprehensive supports

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Providing community college students with a wide range of comprehensive supports, such as counseling, tutoring, and financial assistance, can improve low rates of persistence and graduation. These support programs address many simultaneous barriers that students face, which may be a key driver...
Students work on white board

Charter schools and student learning

In the United States, the estimated impacts of charter schools have varied widely. In Massachusetts, students who won lotteries for charter schools located in urban areas often did substantially better than students who lost; while students who won lotteries for charter schools in nonurban areas...
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Increasing college access by making the application process easier

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Relatively low-cost programs to simplify the college application process and support students through this transition can increase college enrollment and persistence in the United States and Canada. Personalized assistance, timely reminders, and fee waivers were key components of effective programs.
Jóvenes trabajan en sus postulaciones de trabajo. Photo: Aude Guerrucci | J-PAL

Reducing search barriers for jobseekers

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Programs focused on reducing job search barriers often improve jobseekers’ employment outcomes. These programs can help jobseekers identify where and how to look for jobs, encourage increased search effort, and help communicate qualifications to employers.

Teaching business skills to support microentrepreneurs

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Business skills training programs increased microentrepreneurs’ use of business best practices, but in most cases, there were no significant changes in their profits.

Supporting firm growth through consulting and business training

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Economists have long identified large differences in productivity between countries and between firms. One potential explanation for the persistent gap is that some firms have better management practices than others.

Encouraging residential energy efficiency

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Programs that encouraged investments in residential energy efficiency had limited returns in several impact evaluations in real-world settings. Relatively small impacts on energy savings coupled with low take-up meant that encouraging these investments through information campaigns and subsidies was...

The limited impact of US workplace wellness programs on health and employment-related outcomes

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Two randomized evaluations of workplace wellness programs in the US found limited impact on employees’ health habits and no impact on their health, employment, or health care costs in the initial years, contrary to previous observational studies.